We all know that insta-love is one of the biggest bookish sins. Almost everyone hates it. Really, when was the last time you read a book with insta-love and thought, “I’m so glad those characters fell in love as soon as they met. I hate it when characters wait a whole week or two before they really fall for each other”? Um, never. (Though, I did do a post awhile back about whether or not insta-love could ever work and found that there are times it’s more palatable than others.)
So, why do authors do it? Do they just have no idea that readers don’t like insta-love? Have they never read a review of a book with insta-love, so they’re just unaware it’s a problem? Are they just lazy? I don’t think so.
Okay, so I exaggerated when I said I think I know why authors write insta-love, but I do have a couple of good ideas about why it might happen sometimes!
Since I’ve been editing (and since I started writing my own book for NaNoWriMo), I’ve noticed something. Books don’t read the same way when you’re working on them as they do when you’re just reading them from cover to cover. In the process of editing, I’ve noticed that even really awesome authors sometimes make the love connection between their characters too soon. And it also made me realize that insta-love is actually a lot harder to spot when you’re in the process of writing (and even sometimes, to a lesser extent, in the process of editing). I think there are two main reasons why:
The author is already connected to their characters
When an author begins writing, they’ve usually been thinking about their plot and their characters for some time. That’s not to say that the characters don’t grow and morph while the author is writing, but in some ways, the author already feels like they know these characters before they’ve even begun writing. When writing a romance within a story, the author can feel the connection between their main characters before they’ve even written a word. They’ve imagined interactions between these two people that, in their eyes, have incredible weight because they feel personal. Whereas, when the reader is just getting to know these characters, the interactions might not hold as much significance (at least at the beginning of a book). In some ways, I think the author might be blinded by their love for the love between their characters. It’s hard to keep it all in perspective!
The writing process is slow
The second reason I think that insta-love doesn’t seem as egregious to authors sometimes is because the writing process takes SO much longer than it takes to read a book. So, while you got from the page where the characters met to the page where they’re declaring their love for each other in about 15 minutes, the author may have worked on those pages for two weeks (or longer)! That’s two weeks of thinking about these characters all the time, imagining their next interaction, imagining where the author ultimately wants the story to go … let’s face it, in a lot of books, the characters actually falling in love is just a small step toward where the author wants the overall story to lead. It’s easy to spend those two weeks on it and feel like that’s sufficient. I know from the small amount of writing that I’ve done that creating a real connection between your characters amidst all of the other things that you want to have happen is actually darn hard (I already know I’m going to have to go back and fill in some more interactions between my characters – but I’m trying to focus on moving forward first).
I’ve found that these two issues can even affect me as I’m editing, to some extent. This is why I have to read the book from start to finish once through before I even begin to make edits. It’s the only way to get the true flow of the book and to see it through a reader’s eyes. I can then make suggestions to the author based on this experience. Because once I dive in and start focusing on the minutiae (and spending a long time going through each page), it can start to seem like maybe that relationship didn’t pop up quite so quickly after all. I actually have to remind myself of my first impressions and stick to them because I find myself more connected to the characters and more invested in the relationships the second time around and when I’m spending so much more time on each moment. It’s a different experience than just reading the book straight through once.
None of this is to say that insta-love should be forgiven – it’s just interesting (at least to me) to think about how it might come about in the first place! So, the moral of the story is: authors – make sure you get some great beta readers who will tell it like it is and, of course, a great editor who will help to make your book shine!
So, what do you think? Of course, these are certainly not the only reasons for insta-love, and these are just my opinion based on my experiences. Anybody have any other ideas? I’d love to hear them in the comments!